Is “Winning in the Cash Flow Business” a scam?

I saw a classic infomercial the other day. They seem to run it mostly during daytime television and late at night. Advertising costs less at those times, and I think they assume that anyone watching TV during the day or night is jobless and desperate.

Oddly, I am neither, but there I was. It was my lunch break.

Anyway, this program was hawking something called “Winning in the Cash Flow Business” by Russ Dalbey.

Man, you should have seen the luxury these paid actors were standing in front of. They had paid actors standing in front of huge mansions, Italian sports cars and swimming pools at luxury resorts, and every single one was reciting memorized lines about how easy it was to earn over $100,000 per month.

At this point, you might be detecting a little sarcasm in the tone of this article. In fact, I don’t believe a single word of this advertisement.

First and foremost, if it was that easy to make over a million dollars a year, don’t you think a lot more people would be doing it?

Here’s how the system is supposed to work, according to what I saw on the infomercial and gathered from some Internet research: you (allegedly) make money by brokering “cash flow notes” through Dalbey’s America’s Note Network. Cash flow notes are used for things like lotteries and legal settlements that are paid out in small amounts over the course of several years. What you’re essentially doing is buying someone’s regular payouts for one (smaller) lump sum, and then selling the promissory note to someone else. According to the infomercial, it’s as easy as “Find ‘Em, List ‘Em, Sell ‘Em.”

Now, here’s what actually happens, according to my research: you pay an upfront fee for materials that are supposed to teach you how to get started in this business, which opens you up to nearly instant, aggressive telemarketing calls from the Dalbey Education Institute. When you have trouble getting started due to limitations by state and local laws, or just the difficulty in finding people with cash flow notes in the first place (how do you find out who has these things?), you purchase more materials and coaching sessions and other assorted garbage. By the time you’re a good $800 in the hole (or more), you start to realize that you’ve bought into a scheme that doesn’t really work.

So, is it really a scam, in the usual sense of the word?

On a legal level, I’d have to say no. If you were already a talented salesperson, and if you had a way to get around the obstacles that would keep most of us from finding out who has the cash flow notes in the first place, and if you got really incredibly lucky, there is a tiny, tiny possibility that you might see a profit. They weasel around those million-to-one odds with a variation on the old “results not typical” disclaimer that’s served the weight loss industry so well.

On a practical level, I’d have to say yes. It just feels like a scam, and for a vast majority of people, it ends up functioning the exact same way: you lose money, you get nothing to show for it.

For me, I’m ignoring this infomercial. I strongly suggest you do the same. Even if you are a talented salesperson with a knack for making things happen, you’re better off focusing your strengths elsewhere. This is just too big of a long shot.

Now, I personally believe in abundance, even in a bad economy. There is an awful lot of money out there, and most of us have something that we could leverage into a piece of that pie. I also believe that it’s possible to do what you love while earning an abundant income and not having a traditional job. However, you have to work with the tools you have as an individual, and use them to deliver something of value to others. In other words, you’ve got to create your own system.

You also have to have a passion for whatever it is you’re doing, and more than the average level of courage. You can’t just buy into some prefabricated system and hope to get lucky. You create your own luck when you leverage your talents and passions into income.

In the meantime, steer clear of this mess.